Archive for January 28th, 2009

Which receiver will decide the game?  Photo from Getty Images/US Presswire.

Which receiver will decide the game? Photo from Getty Images/US Presswire.

Well I’ve had a week and a half to try to decide which way I was going to go for my Super Bowl winner and I still don’t feel good about it.  But it’s time to get it out there anyway, so I’ll talk it through with you and see if I stick to my guns with the winner.

My head says, “Steelers, you dummy, pick the Steelers.  Defense wins championships.”  And that old adage is definitely true, we’ve seen it with the Ravens and the Bucs and the Giants and the Patriots in recent years.  The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league, there’s no argument about that.  The Cardinals defense has been porous at times during the season but they’ve really picked it up in the playoffs.  They’ve picked everything up in the playoffs though.  Still, defensive edge goes to Pittsburgh.

Since we talked defense, I guess we should talk offense now.  Who has the advantage here?  Both QB’s have been to the Super Bowl and both have won one.  I’d give Arizona a slight edge in wide receivers, well actually it might be a really big edge if Hines Ward doesn’t go or isn’t 100%.  Larry Fitzgerald has been a beast and there’s no reason to think that Pitt is going to shut him down.  They might limit him compared to some other teams, but he will make some plays.  Pittsburgh gets the edge in the running game, though AZ has been pretty good there in recent weeks as well.  As for QB?  I like Warner better than Big Ben but the fact is they’re both just as capable of throwing crippling interceptions as they are throwing game winning TD’s.  They’re both scary to bet on.  Offensive edge to the Cardinals.

Another way is to go with the hot team.  Who’s hotter?  Both of them have rolled through the playoffs, so I really can’t distinguish there.  Pitt has the overall better record against better competition.  Arizona’s best wins have been in the playoffs, while Pitt has faced off with Baltimore three times and come out the winner, not to mention taking out the Chargers, another really hot team.

Coaching?  Both coaches have all of 2 years head coaching experience, though Whisenhunt was a coordinator at least with the Super Bowl winning Steelers.  Tomlin has a ring as the Bucs defensive backs coach.  Whisenhunt has the advantage of knowing the Pitt system rather well, seeing as he was there, but I’m sure Tomlin’s people have changed things up some.  I’d call coaching even.

X factors:

The Steelers have been here before.  They know what this game is like, they know the hoopla heading in and they know how to deal with it.  The Cardinals are almost entirely new to games of this magnitude.  Warner has been there before, Edge has dealt with the playoffs year in and year out, but that’s about it.  Can Warner get the rest of the team as focused as they need to be going in?  I’m sure that he’ll try and distractions will be kept to a minimum, but there will be some.

Big Ben.  Ben has lived for a couple of years now knowing that his team won the Super Bowl despite him, not because of him.  He turned in one of the worst QB performances in a big game that I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to see.  I honestly hated the Steelers for at least a year after that Super Bowl, because it was such a terrible game that it offended my senses.  So, this time out, Ben has to prove himself.  These Cardinals are not nearly as inept as those Seahawks were and he’s going to have to actually make some plays to win.  Will he step it up and get it done?

The “nobody believed in us” team.  The Cardinals have had the fun of playing the whole postseason as the team that everybody was picking to be one and done.  You may recall reading those very words from me a few weeks ago in my first playoff prediction.  Everybody sneered about how terribly they were playing down the stretch and what a crappy division they played in.  They used that each and every week to help motivate them, as these things seem to, and each week they’ve come out on top.  They’ll be singing that tune leading up to this game and if they win, we’ll be hearing it as they dump champagne and beer all over one another.  It’s a powerful motivator, silly though it might be.

So…with all that to consider, which way do I go?  Go with the gut and say the Steelers or go with the heart and pick the Cards?  Going into this week I fully intended on putting it on the line and picking the Cardinals.  There’s something that feels good about them, something that feels right.  The Warner story, Larry Fitzgerald showing his awesomeness both on and off the field (if you have not heard that young man give an interview, I beg you to listen to one, what a humble, good man he seems to be), Edge earning his ring, the team that nobody believed in achieving the pinnacle of their sport…that’s the thing I would love to see happen.  But do I think it will?  Every day that gets closer to the game I find myself leaning toward Pittsburgh, the team I know, the defense I trust.  When in doubt you go with the defense.  Sigh.

Alright, it’s time to man up (or woman up in my case) and make my pick.  So I’ll commit…Steelers by 3.  Special teams, which I did not discuss, makes a difference and Santonio Holmes sets up a couple short fields for Pitt.  So the head is winning out over the heart, but this is one pick I hope I actually get wrong.  Happy Super Bowling to you all, have some wings and beer and nachos and whatever else for me!  And go Cards!  (I can’t help it, I gotta root for the underdog this time!)

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